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A Buyer's Guide to Paid Search Advertising Agencies

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Who are the key players in the paid search arena? A companion to the Buyer's Guide to Search Engine Optimization Firms, reviewed last week, has the inside scoop.

A longer version of this story for Search Engine Watch members explains how the Marketing Sherpa Buyer's Guides to SEO and PPC advertising firms can be used for competitive intelligence by search marketing professionals, for information on tactics and business methods, clients, billing processes and more. Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

Paid search marketing has exploded in the past three years, since Yahoo's acquisition of Overture and Google's introduction of AdWords. Despite the relative youth of the industry, developing a successful paid search campaigns requires extensive industry knowledge and experience.

Firms specializing in paid search campaigns generally come from three backgrounds, according to The Buyer's Guide to Paid Search Advertising (PPC) Agencies from Marketing Sherpa. There are traditional search optimization firms who've acquired paid search experience so they can service all of their clients' search marketing needs. Traditional ad agencies have also piled into the game, so they can service all of their clients' online advertising needs. And because the field is so lucrative, individuals wanting to start their own business have also piled into the space.

Each type of firm is likely to take a different approach, and deliver very different outcomes, to a paid search marketing campaign. That poses a challenge for companies wanting to engage the services of a PPC professional to develop and manage a search advertising campaign.

The Buyer's Guide is designed to help companies make this selection. The first part of the guide covers the basics of paid search campaigns and how they are typically priced. It also offers general advice on selecting a paid search agency.

Much of this information takes the form of answering common questions: Why not let your regular ad agency handle your paid search? Should you hire an agency or do your own paid search campaign in-house? How do you determine a baseline search advertising budget?

If you're not familiar with how paid search agencies work, the answers to these questions can save you a lot of time and trouble. The sample contract and negotiation tips and also be helpful when you're getting down to brass tacks with an agency.

The bulk of the guide, just like the companion Buyer's Guide to SEO reviewed last week, is a directory of 61 paid search agencies, detailing the services they offer. The guidelines for inclusion in the directory were similar to those for SEO firms:

To meet these guidelines, a company must:

  • Have paying clients since March 2004 or earlier

  • Have one in-house staffer who focuses at least 75% on paid search services and has been a professional since 2002 or earlier

  • Derive a significant portion of revenue from paid search advertising services (not including ad buying fees paid to engines themselves)

  • Make $75,000 or more fees from clients who engage the firm specifically for paid search advertising

  • Be based in the U.S., U.K., Ireland, Australia or New Zealand

Firms could either be self-nominated or nominated by a client. Marketing Sherpa distributed a 172 point questionnaire to nominated firms, and followed up with email and telephone interviews to compile profiles. Companies not disclosing information were not included in the guide.

Firms are not rated for quality, but each lists two clients that can be used for references and study of how the firm is managing a campaign.

Marketing Sherpa's Buyer's Guide to Search Engine Optimization Firms - $199
http://sherpastore.com/store/page.cfm/2204

A longer version of this story for Search Engine Watch members explains how the Marketing Sherpa Buyer's Guides to SEO and PPC advertising firms can be used for competitive intelligence by search marketing professionals, for information on tactics and business methods, clients, billing processes and more. Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

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